CHAMPIONS FC Platinum wrapped up a successful season when their midfielder Rodwell Chinyengetere was named the Castle Soccer Star of the Year, while teammate Kevin Moyo walked away as the first runner-up at a colourful ceremony in Harare last night.
The platinum miners had an impressive one-two finish in the race for the coveted individual crown in domestic football and relegated Dynamos skipper Ocean Mushure into third place.
Their coach Norman Mapeza also walked to the podium to collect the Coach of the Year award. The awards, which coincided with the league's Silver Jubilee, were graced by former Warriors skipper Peter Ndlovu who was the guest of honour. Chinyengetere pocketed the winner's cheque of US$5 000 and an additional $1 000 that he was entitled to for being chosen among the XI finalists.
The award capped a sensational comeback story for a player who, five years ago, thought he would never play football again after suffering a horrific double fracture while playing for Hwange in a league match against Monomotapa. The 29-year-old recently told our sister paper, The Sunday Mail, that his return to the game needed a Divine hand.
"It's a miracle. To be where I am today is surely the work of God. That injury was a horrible experience, at first I thought it was the end of my career lying there on the bed at the Avenues Clinic in Harare."
In the year in which many players struggled for consistency, Chinyegetere managed to stick his head above everyone else as he played a pivotal role in FC Platinum's quest for a maiden league championship.
The platinum miners managed to fend off stiff competition from giants Dynamos, who wrestled for the league title to the last day, Ngezi Platinum Stars and early pacesetters Chicken Inn.
And lifting the title was definitely a plus for Chinyengetere, who had accelerated his momentum towards the end of the season and right on time ahead of the selection conducted by a panel of journalists, coaches and captains two weeks ago.
The veteran forward was more visible, especially in the second half of the season where he also weighed in with crucial goals for FC Platinum to push his tally to nine goals.
The former Warriors man walked tall as he took his total earnings from the awards this month to $6 500 following his selection as the best player for November, again ahead of teammate Moyo.
Defender Moyo also had a splendid season. The 24-year-old was instrumental at the heart of the FC Platinum defence which, apparently was the best in the league by statistics.
FC Platinum conceded the least goals - 15 - in a season in which they lost only twice from the 34 matches that they played. The feat was down to a well organised defence where the lanky former Zimbabwe youth international provided the steel. His efforts were rewarded with a combined $4 000 handshake.
Mushure was the second runner-up on the night and walked away $3 000 richer. The DeMbare skipper led from the front as he drove the Glamour Boys in one of their most difficult seasons in which many people had expected them to implode. However, Mushure was instrumental even during the dark days, weighing in with a couple of goals to help DeMbare settle for silver in the championship race.
Their coach Lloyd Mutasa received plaudits for transforming a team that had been assembled using the unorthodox means of holding trials after he had lost almost the core of his squad from the previous season into championship material. But the Coach of the Year award went to Mapeza who was also a front-runner after helping the platinum miners break a long standing record by leading a team from outside Harare and Bulawayo to the championship. St. Pauls Musami of Mrehwa were the last team from outside Harare to win the championship in 1966.
To put the icing on the cake, FC Platinum finished the season with a double after bagging the inaugural Castle Challenge Cup which features the league champions and the Chibuku Super Cup winners.
Chicken Inn goalkeeper Elvis Chipezeze, who had an incredible season in which he kept 19 clean sheets was fittingly named Goalkeeper of the Year.
Newboys Yadah's Young Warriors forward Leeroy Mavhunga took the Rookie of the Year award reserved for players under the age of 19.
The Golden Boot was claimed by CAPS United's Dominic Chungwa who banged in 17 goals this year. But for the second successive season, controversy marred the selection of Ruzive Ruzive as Referee of the Year.
Ruzive who won the award last year amid disgruntlement won the 2017 accolade ahead of Nomore Musundire who is currently officiating at the COSAFA Under-20 and had a fine season and Luckmore Mhara. Just like last year there were voices of disgruntlement in the audience who probably had thought this was Musundire's year.
Delta Corporate Marketing Director Maxen Karombo hailed the PSL for staging a successful season. Karombo congratulated the winners and also reflected on the exciting competition that kept supporters in suspense until the last day when FC Platinum crossed the line just two points ahead of DeMbare in a nail-biting finish.
"It remains amazing that ever since Castle Lager resumed sponsorship of the league, we have had a nail-biting finish in all seven seasons. The champion has had to be decided on the very last match day of the season - for seven consecutive years!!! Isn't that a world record??
"And a worthy winner has emerged in each of those seven seasons. This year we congratulate FC Platinum, Norman Mapeza and the entire Zvishavane community for taking the championship away from Harare and Bulawayo.
"While the nervy finish to each season provides great entertainment to the fans, it presents extreme headaches for the joint organizing team from the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League and the Delta Marketing team led by Ms Patricia Murambinda.
"What is most pleasing is that we started and finished the league in the exact time scale that was planned, a feat many in other countries find difficult to complete. It points to the very professional manner in which our league is ably managed by the Board of Trustees, currently led by Mr Keni Mubaiwa and the league's CEO, another Kenny 'Chief' Ndebele. These two gentlemen in particular, have been a joy to work with," said Karombo.
2017 Castle Soccer Stars winners:
Footballer of the year - Rodwell Chinyengetere (FC Platinum)
1st runner up - Kevin Moyo (FC Platinum)
2nd runner up - Ocean Mushure (Dynamos)
8 Finalists - Christian Joel Epoupa Ntouba, Devon Chafa, Dominic Chungwa (CAPS United), Moses Jackson, Clemence Matawu (Chicken Inn), Qadr Amini, Terrence Dzvukamanja, Tichaona Mabvura (Ngezi Platinum).
Coach of the year - Norman Mapeza
Goalkeeper of the year - Elvis Chipezeze
Top goal scorer of the year - Dominic Chungwa (CAPS United)
Most promising Under-19 player of the year - Leeroy Mavhunga
Most disciplined team - Triangle United
Referee of the year - Ruzive Ruzive
1st Runner up - Nomore Musundire
2nd Runner-up - Luckmore Mhara